MANILA, Nov. 22, 2011?More than 500 students from elementary and secondary schools in Metro Manila experienced harvesting rice in an event led by PhilRice at Luneta Park, Nov. 18.

The event, co-sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, was part of the series of activities for the National Rice Awareness Month this November.

Established in 2003, the rice garden showcases the art and science of rice farming for the residents, especially Metro Manila youth, to know more the production stages of rice and its importance to the Philippine culture and heritage.

The event also aimed to familiarize the metro dwellers with different rice varieties. PhilRice cultivated Sinampaguita, a traditional rice variety; NSIC 160, inbred; and Mestizo 20, hybrid, which the kids harvested using a sickle.

PhilRice executive director Eufemio Rasco, Jr. said in a press release that the rice garden is the only rice field in Manila.

“We hope to replicate this garden in major cities in the country through our collaboration with the local government units,” he added.

Rasco also encouraged the participants to consider taking agriculture courses when they enter college.

“Many young individuals no longer want to farm. It is a cause of worry. Who will be the future food producers?” Rasco said.

To encourage students to enroll in agriculture courses, PhilRice promotes the career opportunities in rice industry in its series of forum being conducted across the country.

Vicente Raguindin, a teacher from A.C. Herrera Elementary School expressed that the ceremonial rice harvesting is a good opportunity for the kids in the metro to learn more about staple food as many of them have yet to see a rice plant.

The pupils from seven schools also learned that every Filipino wastes 2 tbsp of rice daily. When not wasted, the said amount of rice could have helped the country save PhP 5.3 billion in rice exports and fed about 3 million hungry Filipinos.

Highlighting the event was the recitation of the Panatang Makapalay, a pledge on rice conservation.

Anagene Pelayo of the Lakandula Elementary School said she will eat all the rice she placed on her plate as response to the call of reducing rice wastage.

The 11-year-old kid added that she will also diversify her diet by eating corn as alternative to rice.

Meanwhile, PhilRice rice chemist Joy Bartolome Duldulao emphasized the importance of diversified diet for better health.

Duldulao said that diversified diet is a healthy option as other carbohydrate sources like camote, banana, potato, gabi, and corn has more complex carbohydrates and high fiber content than rice.

“Half of the typical Filipino plate contains rice despite recommendations to eat more fruits and vegetables. New dietary guidelines recommend that fruits and vegetables should occupy half of our plates and about ¼ by grains,” Duldulao added.

Providing more alternatives to rice, event partner The Old Spaghetti House presented a 30-minute Rice-less cooking show, featuring easy-to-cook carbonara and kid`s spaghetti.

The Rice garden in Luneta was put up in partnership with the Bureau of Plant Industry, the National Parks Development Committee of the Department of Tourism, and the Asia Rice Foundation. (Jandel Posion)